Neighborhoods reject the Dollar General image, but not the savings

Dollar General recruiters.


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: We're gonna get earnings on the retailer Dollar General later this morning. Discounters have been doing well in this tough economy. But in the Atlanta suburb of Austell, Georgia, saving a little money takes a backseat to image.

From station WABE, Jim Burress reports.

JIM BURRESS: Three cans of green beans, peas or corn for a buck. It's hard to argue with the price. But when Austell residents learned this new store along the main highway was going to be a Dollar General, "price" was the last thing on their minds. This was about image. You could say locals got a little touch of the "NIMBYs-Not in my back yard!"

LISA CUPID: Dollar General doesn't reflect where we thought the community was going.

That's Lisa Cupid. Her newer, two-story house isn't far from the new Dollar General. She doesn't have anything against the company. Even shops there herself. It's just the image. Poor.

CUPID: We thought that anything new that was coming to the area would have reflected an increasing dollar value.

A nice grocery store, for example. Maybe a bank. Anything but a Dollar store. Cupid and dozens of neighbors took their concerns to Woody Thompson, their representative on the county commission. He says his hands were tied because the store fell within county zoning codes. And, like it or not, he says Austell's average household reflects Dollar General's target market.

WOODY THOMPSON: I think they're looking for some more upscale things, but as I told them, changes have to happen, and part of it is going to have to be a rise in per-capita income.

A Dollar General spokesperson says the retailer targets areas with a median household income of less than $75,000. Pam Ellen is a marketing professor at Georgia State University. She says retail usually reflects its neighbors.

PAM ELLEN: The neighborhood has been defined by the characteristics of the people who live there, and that's what attracted Dollar General store to the area.

Still, Ellen says neighbors shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the General. The company in recent years has worked to shed its generic, dumpy, cheap image.

ELLEN: Dollar General stores have been targeting actually Wal-Mart and Walgreens, as they seek to become more of a true discounter than a 'dollar store.'

Maybe they should call it the 10-Dollar General?

In Atlanta, I'm Jim Burress for Marketplace.


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